י״ט בטבת ה׳תשע״ג (January 1, 2013)

Shabbat 90a-b: Is Shabbat Carrying Objective or Subjective?

The tenth perek begins on today’s daf, and, like the previous ones, discusses the category of creative labor [melakha] known as carrying out. However, its primary focus is to clarify one aspect of this category.

Until this point, the discussions have focused on the volume of the object being carried out. In other words, what is the volume necessary for an object to be considered significant? Only a significant object renders its carrier liable for this labor. This chapter, however, deals with the manner in which the carrying is performed. Under which conditions are the actions involved in the carrying considered to have been performed in a standard and customary manner, so that the act qualifies as bona fide carrying, and under which conditions is the act done in what is considered an unusual manner, so that the person is not liable for bona fide carrying?
Furthermore, if the carrying is performed by means of a vessel or utensil, what are the halakhic issues that then come into play? Do we assess the action in terms of the essence of what is being carried, i.e., the object in the vessel, or is the vessel itself also of import? For example, how do we assess the action if the vessel contains a measure of the object that is less than the minimum amount required for the person to be judged liable for carrying? To give another example, how do we assess the action if the vessel itself has been only partially removed from its domain, but the entire contents of the vessel are already in the other domain? Do we determine liability based on the container or based on the object contained?

The first Mishna of the perek teaches:

One who stores a seed for sowing, or as a sample, or for medicinal purposes and carried it out on Shabbat is liable for carrying out any amount. And any other person is only liable for carrying it out on Shabbat if he carries out its measure for liability.

By storing that measure, he indicates that it is significant to him. Therefore, he is liable for carrying it, despite the fact that what he carried out is less than the halakhic measure that determines liability for that item.